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Padgett, Pitino & the Cardinal Coaching Carousel Coulda Woulda

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Oh how U of L hoops might have been different today

At the top, before I get to opinionizing, conjecturing, rumor mongering, innuendo disseminating and other stuff my phalanx of attorneys have advised me against, let me add my words of praise for David Padgett.

The fellow was dropped into a situation that was extremely difficult at best, and exasperatingly impossible at worst.

At every twist and turn, he comported himself with poise, class and humility.

David Padgett, dare I say it, is a mensch.

University of Louisville fans owe him a debt of gratitude for the stalwart way he handled an untoward situation.

I hold him in nothing short of the highest regard.

He has all the peripherals for a long and successful coaching career. I don’t know a Cardinal fan who doesn’t wish for his success.

Which hopefully will come with further seasoning and experience under fire. As righteous a dude as he has shown himself to be, he also proved he was not quite ready for prime time. He was placed in a petri dish, and the culture of coaching excellence did not germinate during this troubled season.

(Count me among those who would love to observe his development, and one day return to mentor the Cardinals.)

Though as far back as the turn of the year, I called for Padgett to be hired full time, for at least a few seasons. Which presentment was based more on the dire circumstances facing U of L hoops, how that will affect the near future, and how it might impede the ability to hire a coach already known to be worthy of Seat #1 at a three time national championship ACC program.

Those more in the know than I am firmly believe that Louisville will be able to hire someone with proven stature.

That remains unanswered three days after U of L’s not so elegant exit from the NIT.

* * * * *

Rick Pitino wants to coach again.

Imagine our surprise.

Is there anybody who paid attention during his oft plagued roller coaster of a stint at U of L, who observed his incredible ability to speak eloquently out of both sides of his mouth simultaneously, who believed him when he said he was through with coaching after being justifiably fired at Louisville?

Of course, I’ll be watching as he’s twisting slowly slowly in the wind, wondering what opportunities, if any, shall surface?

Anyway, he gave an interview with the Washington Post.

Three revelations jumped out at me.

Irrelevant for our purposes, except as an indication of how much a family man he really is not. Imagine our surprise. During the days when the Post was chatting him up, he didn’t go to his grandkids’ play with the rest of his family. (Though he attempted to explain the decision away by mentioning how he’d been to a rehearsal.)

More important for our curiosity, there was this.

One, he now admits that he indeed did discuss Brian Bowen with Adidas’s Jim Gatto on the phone. Which he previously denied, saying the conversations with the indicted shoe company rep had been entirely about Terry Rozier’s contract.

Second, when he got the manna from heaven text out of the blue from Christian Dawkins, inquiring whether the then Cardinal coach would be interested in Bowen, he didn’t even know who Bowen was. He had to ask then assistant David Padgett to learn the kid was the “top ranked uncommitted player left in the 2017 class.”

Which confirms his propensity to prevaricate. And a lack of knowledge about one of the basics for someone coaching at an upper echelon school, i.e. knowing who the available talented recruits are.

* * * * *

Now for a couple of what condition would U of L hoops’ condition be in today, if a couple things had happened that didn’t.

Howard Stacey, a name more than likely familiar to only old school Cardinal fans, recently passed away. He played for Peck Hickman on the ‘59 Final Four team, and was an assistant to John Dromo, when the latter ascended to first chair on the Louisville bench.

When Dromo had a heart attack in January ‘71, Stacey was interim coach, essentially a try out to get the job permanently. (That’s right, Padgett for Pitino wasn’t a first time scenario.)

Stacey finished the season 12-8. Which mediocrity pushed the university to look elsewhere.

Enter Denny Crum.

Stacey went on to coach Drake to no success, and lasted but a couple seasons.

Louisville under Crum -- well, you know -- climbed to the highest levels of the sport and won two national titles.

But, what if Stacey had gone, say, 17-3, and the school felt obligated to hire him?

Oh, U of L would be Southern Illinois, that’s what. Just another they also play mid major.

OK, how about another what if?

Tom Jurich confirmed to me years ago, that the rumors were true, that if Rick Pitino hadn’t come to U of L, Jay Wright, then at Hofstra, was his second choice.

And had The Rick moved to Ann Arbor and shtupped some local wacko hoops groupie at Mani Osteria instead of Porcini, and Jurich nabbed Wright, what would the Louisville situation be today?

Sitting on a third national title both de facto and de jure? Getting ready to tip in the Sweet Sixteen as #1 seed and tourney favorite? Be NCAA scrutiny-free?

Or, after a few wobbly seasons here like he had at the start for ‘Nova, and that job reopening, might the locals and TJ have gotten restless and allowed Wright, a Philly dude, to slip off the Main Line?

There but for fortune.

* * * * *

On this Thursday afternoon, as we await the tipoffs of the Sweet Sixteen games, it is being reported that U of L officials will meet in a day or two with Xavier coach Chris Mack, long rumored to be the Cardinals’ primary coaching target.

What if he comes?

What if he doesn’t, and it’s Ed Cooley or Eric Musselman or some other flavor of the month, or even David Padgett?

If Bob Dylan can’t conjure the answer, neither can I.

What I do know is things would have been a lot different around here for the last 40+ years were Howard Stacey named coach in ‘71, or if Jay Wright had taken the reigns in 2001 instead of Rick Pitino, who would have been soon enough banned by Joanne from any more pasta excursions to Mani Osteria, and who would last fall have vowed he’d never return to Ann Arbor and would never coach again.

-- Seedy K